40.1006 The Water Supply of Carthage
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The Water Supply of Carthage
by 'Melvadius Macrinus Cugerni' (Iain Dickson)

At the time when Rome conquered Carthage much of the cities water was supplied either from wells or like here in a second century BC building on the Byrsa Hill, from cisterns in individual dwellings. These cisterns were used to collect any rain falling on the building and were often at least two meters deep so could hold several thousand litres of water.

In 146 BC Carthage was destroyed and the site of the city was left barren for a hundred years until Julius Caesar decided to allow it to be rebuilt and in 29 BC Octavian settled 3,000 colonists in Carthage and the city was renamed as Colonia Julia Concordia Karthago. It was during th time of Hadrian in the late 1st / early 2nd century AD, that an aqueduct was built to supply Carthage with fresh water. The result was one of the longest aqueducts built anywhere in the Roman Empire stretching for some 132 km from Zaghouan to Carthage.

The start of the aqueduct is a spring near to the modern town of Zaghouan where it can be seen running beside the road at ground level, so it does not look terribly significant, but it is still in use today supplying water in the area of Zaghouan.

Some signs of the Roman engineering are more obvious than others as can be seen from this picture where the aqueduct crosses a wadi.

Closer to Carthage the water was carried by a more instantly recognisable aqueduct, which was in use as late as the 17th century and the remaining structure can today be seen in places like here amongst more modern buildings close to the Medina in Tunis.

The final destination of the water carried by the aquaeduct system is a series of 24 large cisterns ( known on French as "Citernes de la Malga") near to the Byrsa Hill in Carthage from where the water was distributed to the rebuilt Carthage.

Melvadius Macrinus Cugerni (Iain Dickson)